Tips for Parents

The following are some general tips to help your child better cope with his or her anxiety.  See the ‘Websites and Books’  for additional resources.

 

Demonstrate Empathy and Compassion:

It is important acknowledge, listen to, and re-state or paraphrase their fears to show that you understand what is causing them to feel distressed.

Normalize Anxiety

After you have validated your child’s anxiety, it’s often helpful to let your child know that anxiety is an normal response to events that are scary.  Many people are anxious when they have to perform on stage or give a report in front of the class, for example.   Provide them with examples of how other people have coped with their anxiety, perhaps with a real-life hero or superhero the child enjoys.

Address Negative Thinking

People with anxiety often have negative biases in their thoughts.  They may think that the worst is going to happen, and if it does, they won’t be able to manage it.  If is often helpful to talk with your child and help them to learn to identify inaccurate thoughts they may have.  Then, your child can practice challenging these “thinking errors  and replace them with a more positive thought.

Prevent Avoidance Behaviors

We are all tempted to avoid things that frighten us.  Avoidance of feared situations can be very effective in the short term, but in the long term it prevents people from learning that they can cope with their fears and that the worst may not even happen.  Plus, your child may miss out on fun activities, like attending a birthday party or playing on a sports team.  Try to prevent avoidance behaviors by encouraging your child to face his/her fears and cope constructively in the face of anxiety.

Model and Reinforce Brave Behavior

As mentioned above, we all experience anxiety.  Remember to be a coping model for your child.  You can talk about a time that you felt anxious, how you coped with it, and how the outcome may have been better than you expected.  Think about your own behavior . . . are there times that you may model inappropriate coping behavior for you child?  Finally, it is tempting to give you child lots of attention when he or she is anxious.  Be sure to also praise and reward your child when he/she faces her fears and copes effectively!